HIGH POINT — This year’s city elections could turn into an expensive proposition.
Why? Here are some of the reasons:
• There are 23 candidates running for local office. In the last municipal election with a similar number of candidates, more than $118,000 was raised among them all.
• All but one race will be contested. Also, the races for five of the nine seats will involve a fall primary before the general election, including the citywide races for mayor and the two at-large City Council slots.
• A new, local business political action committee is raising tens of thousands of dollars to spend during the campaign season.
“Considering the strong business interest in this election, certainly you could see a lot of money in this race,” said Carla Cole, professor of political science at Guilford Technical Community College.
Three years ago during the last municipal races, candidates for mayor and council raised more than $118,000, which was a record amount from donors for a city election.
Of the 24 candidates who made a bid for mayor and council three years ago, 15 had to file reports with the Guilford County Board of Elections. Local candidates are exempt from filing a campaign finance report if they don’t raise $1,000.
This year, three candidates filed for mayor and 20 for the eight council seats. The mid-year campaign financial reports, which were due this past Friday, give some insight into what candidates have raised so far. The vast majority of candidates haven’t filed reports because they haven’t raised enough to meet the reporting threshold, though some candidates report even if they have less than $1,000.
• Mayoral candidate Jay Wagner, who serves on council now, reports $4,275 cash on hand starting the campaign season.
• Mayoral candidate Jim Davis, who serves on council now, reports $1,207 in cash on hand entering the campaign season.
• At-large council challenger Don Scarborough reports $3,099 cash on hand.
• At-large council challenger Daniel Gardner reports $303 in cash on hand.
In addition to contributions brought in by candidates, a new local PAC is raising money for the first time in an election cycle.
The PAC, called the High Point Political Alliance, so far has raised nearly $45,000. According to its most recent financial report submitted last month, the main donors to the PAC include:
• Two limited liability corporations associated with Blue Ridge Cos., which has developed property in the Palladium area of northern High Point, gave a total of $10,000.
• Greg and Caren York, who are associated with the family that owns and operates the Vann York car dealerships, contributed $5,000.
• Robert and Susan Culp, who are associated with Culp Inc., gave $5,000.
• MarketPlace Management, a property firm associated with local businessman, civic backer and former mayoral candidate Coy Williard, contributed $5,000.
With candidate filing having concluded on July 21, one goal of the local PAC is to set up interview time with the candidates, said Brian Gavigan, president and director of the High Point Political Alliance.
“We want to get to know people the best we can as soon as we can,” said Gavigan, who works as an attorney. “Some of the candidates we know well and know their stands on economic growth. Some we don’t.”
The local PAC has a platform of issues that will determine what type of support the High Point Political Alliance will provide to candidates.
“The objective overall is to have a pro-economic growth council,” Gavigan told The High Point Enterprise.
The local PAC board will determine what courses of action to take leading up to the Oct. 10 primary and Nov. 7 general election.
“We are going to take action — we are not going to be bystanders,” Gavigan said.
Once the local PAC details the positions of candidates on key business issues, then the High Point Political Alliance will determine what steps it will take going into the primary and general election, Gavigan said.
Privately raised money in large amounts could have a significant impact on the election, Cole told The Enterprise.
“When you have PACs with a vested interest in the outcome of an election, they can raise significant amounts of money to spend on the political process,” she said.
The amounts that potentially could be spent in the High Point local election reflect a trend with all types of races — from the White House to state legislatures — escalating the cash flow entering campaigns, Cole said.